The Dakota Access Pipeline just celebrated one year of operation

Last Friday the Dakota Access Pipeline celebrated one year in operation. We’re a long way from the battles between “water protectors” and police that seemed to preoccupy the media for so many months. From Forbes:

DAPL has been quietly transferring crude oil from the Bakken fields in North Dakota at a rate of over 500,000 barrels per day. That has helped bolster North Dakota’s daily production numbers. According to the North Dakota’s Department of Mineral Resources, North Dakota production hit 1.16 million barrels per day in March, thanks in large to part to DAPL…

The Dakota Access Pipeline’s safety record to date is quite impressive—the pipeline has been entirely free from significant incidents. While several minor leaks have been recorded, they were each quickly contained at the source and amounted to mere gallons, rather than barrels of volume escaping. According to available data, the pipeline lost less than 4 barrels of oil during its first six months in operation versus roughly 61.25 million barrels transported during the same period of time…

Supporters view DAPL as a modern success story. For opponents, it is a stark reminder that we live in a word that is dependent upon fossil fuels. Lowering emissions and reducing spills is a worthy goal; opposing every form of energy infrastructure is not.

While the pipeline has been doing well so far, its opponents are still facing jail time. One protester, Michael “Little Feather” Giron, was sentenced to 36 months in jail just last week over his involvement:

On Oct. 27, 2016, law enforcement officials began removing DAPL protesters who gathered at a spot on Highway 1806 south of Mandan.

Some of the protesters had erected an illegal roadblock on the road and were trespassing on private property.

At some point, a number of protesters added more barricades to the roadblock and set them on fire.

Another protester who unfurled a giant NoDAPL divestment banner at a football stadium pleaded guilty yesterday:

One of two people charged with misdemeanors for unfurling a banner from the rafters of U.S. Bank Stadium during a Minnesota Vikings game to protest the Dakota Access pipeline has pleaded guilty and has been placed on probation.

And the sentencing for the most serious crime that took place during the protests, the discharge of a handgun, will take place later this month.

Of course, the success or failure of a pipeline can’t be judged in a single year. I certainly hope the company maintaining the pipeline stays focused on safety and making sure the spills that inevitably do happen are measured in gallons instead of barrels. But as the Intercept wrote in its review of DAPL leaks: “Pipelines leak.”

Yes, and because they do there will always be some risk involved in transporting petroleum over long distances. Risk is unavoidable so long as we want to continue enjoying all the privileges that come with living in a society where energy and the products and experiences it makes possible are relatively cheap and available to everyone. But the fact remains that shipping oil by pipeline is safer than shipping by rail or truck. It’s not a perfect solution, just the best one available to us at the moment.

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